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Hurt has hope for corn and soybean producers

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Written Tuesday, October 14, 2008  

A Purdue University expert says with today’s conditions, farmers should probably think about a diversified pricing strategy, as well as storing grain into spring.

“A recent update from the U.S. Department of Agriculture showed a 128 million bushel increase in U.S. corn production for the 2008 crop,” said Chris Hurt, Purdue Extension agricultural economist. “This means that supplies are not as tight as we thought, which will result in lower prices--so feed usage will be up, but with oil prices coming down, USDA lowered their estimate of corn used for ethanol.”

In their monthly report, USDA dropped the estimated price level for this year’s corn crop from $5.50 in September to $4.70 for October. Not only does the increase in supply affect the price, but Hurt said that because the grain markets are linked to the financial markets, the price could be even lower.

Hurt explained the linkage.

“If world incomes would drop, then we would see less demand for exports and probably less domestic demand too,” he said. “The grain markets are distinctly tied to the financial markets at this point and strength in the financial markets would mean strength in the grain markets.”

Cash prices dropped throughout the Midwest to near $3.50 for corn, which maybe below the cost of production for producers, and that was certainly not anticipated, he said.

However, he explained if the financial markets stabilize in the next few weeks, we might avoid extreme damage to the world economy, which would allow cash corn prices to recover to the $4.50 to $5 range during late winter and into the spring.”

With such enormous price swings, producers need to think about a diversified pricing strategy, Hurt said.

“This means farmers could price their crop periodically throughout the next six to nine months to help them get the average price and hopefully the average will be a level that at least can pay the bills for the 2008 crop,” he said.

Hurt expects to see a lot of storage this year and believes it will prove beneficial.

“We expect a 60 cent premium for corn sold in the spring, but calculate an interest cost of 20 cents, which gives a 40 cent return for storing this crop and that suggests that there will be very strong storage tendencies.”

USDA increased their estimates for U.S. soybean production for the 2008 crop by 50 million bushels. They also made revisions to 2007 crop by increasing the bushels produced by almost 100 million.

“We knew that going through this past marketing year that something seemed to be amiss,” Hurt said. “We just didn’t have a large enough crop size being reported for the 2007 crop.

“The bottom-line is that expected ending stocks for soybeans for the 2008 crop increased substantially, which like corn results in a lower price estimates. USDA lowered their estimated crop price from over $12 in September to $10.35, while the futures’ market dropped to lows closer to $9 for the 2008 marketing year.”

Hurt pointed out that the futures’ market has absorbed a lot of negativity in anticipation of declining world incomes and the numbers show it. He also noted that if the financial situation stabilizes, the downside pressure that’s there now would dissipate.

“With that prospect, prices could strengthen $1 to $2 through the winter and into the spring. Like corn, there is a premium for storing soybeans returning at least 50 cents a bushel above interest costs.”

Hurt believes that with the current situation at hand, storage is going to be beneficial as the odds favor an eventual stabilizing of financial fears.

“Those who can’t take the risks are probably going to have to market a little bit more here at harvest time, which may feel very dismal to be marketing at the levels we’ve seen recently.”

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